ATLANTA — He eats a salad. Stands up. Grabs his entrée. Makes his potato. Stands up. Gets stuffing for the potato. Walks back.
Every week, Christian Brinser’s Friday meal routine is the exact same. The Missouri punter can’t help but smile at superstition.
"I probably have too many," he said.
Surprisingly, he hadn’t changed any of them going into last week’s Texas A&M contest. Before the game against the Aggies, Brinser had struggled to find any sort of consistency. His average was near the bottom of the conference, and he couldn’t get the hang time needed to match many of the other punters in the SEC.
But when A&M punter Drew Kaser — one of three finalists for the national Ray Guy Award — came to town last Saturday, Brinser was ready for the challenge.
"Every week, I try to beat their punter in some way," he said. "I really wanted to prove that I was just as good as he was, even if my numbers haven’t shown it this year."
The ensuing battle was impressive. The two punters combined for seven kicks that landed inside the 20-yard line. Brinser had four of them.
Missouri requires its punters to execute two styles: traditional and rugby, which calls for a several-step rollout before kicking the ball. When a rugby punt was called against Texas A&M, Brinser nailed it with great accuracy to the right hash. The gunner was in perfect position to tackle the returner, who fumbled the ball back to Missouri.
The play was one of many highlights in the 28-21 win, after which coach Gary Pinkel forgot to talk about his punter. He rectified that on Monday afternoon.
"I wish I would’ve mentioned his name after the game," Pinkel said. "There were so many things going on. That was the best he’s ever punted."
The final numbers: seven punts for 294 yards (a 42.0 average). His long was only 50 yards, but Brinser was extremely proud of another stat: Texas A&M only returned one punt (the fumble) for negative three yards.
"It was definitely the best game that I’ve had since high school," Brinser said. "I need to keep that up the next two games."
Brinser, a walk-on who didn’t begin punting until his sophomore year of high school at Liberty, will be counted on to come through again this weekend in the SEC Championship. It’s fitting that Auburn’s punter — Kansas City native and Park Hill alum Steven Clark — played against Brinser in high school.
"This week will be perfect," Brinser said. "Not only punting in the dome, but just playing in that game. It’s a huge honor."
Two stingy defenses will likely force a fair amount of punts, which means Brinser’s skills will be on full display in front of a nationwide audience.
And as the junior completes his penultimate year, he understands that a big prime-time performance could result in a scholarship.
"I won’t say 'No' if they want to give me one," Brinser said. "But right now, getting to play is good enough."
Supervising editor is Nina Pantic.